Golden girl: Young ICC shooter focuses on Olympic path

Meredith Moffett has been shooting competitively for five years, in which time he's learned patience, concentration and confidence, as well as accuracy. (Carolann Hilt)

Meredith Moffett has been shooting competitively for five years, in which time he’s learned patience, concentration and confidence, as well as accuracy. (Carolann Hilt)

By Kevin Tate

Outdoors Writer

Concentration is the key to success, one young shooter says, a fact that’s proven true both on the firing line and in life.

When Meredith Moffett, from the Becker community in Monroe County, steps to the line to compete against the best young shooters in the nation next month, her dreams of someday representing her country in the Olympics will move forward. The value of what she’s learned in getting to that point, though, has already begun to pay off.

The lessons of patience, focus and concentration have become ingrained and reinforced over time. Her self confidence has grown and the excitement of achieving a lofty goal through dedicated practice has made it all worthwhile.

Today, she is a freshman on the Fulton campus of Itawamba Community College, where she’s studying criminal justice. Weather permitting, she drives 80 miles each way from her home to her training facility twice a week, developing her skill as well as a side of her personality others might not guess was there.

“I’m kind of a girly girl,” she said. “People are surprised when I tell them I shoot.”

Today she is an accomplished shooter, aspiring to make an Olympic team. Five years ago though, she was a 4-H member looking for something new to do.

“The county agent wanted me to try a shooting sport and I did,” she says, “and I kind of fell in love with it.”

Through 4-H, she began her shooting career with the .22 rifle, with which she found success early and often, qualifying to compete in the 2012 4-H nationals. That year in Grand Island, Neb., the Mississippi team placed fourth in the silhouette competition and was fifth-best overall.

When she turned 18 the rules said she was too old to compete with 4-H shooters anymore, but the pursuit of her dream wasn’t over. Contacts with fellow competitors led her to the Cross Roads Sport Shooting Association near Corinth, home over the years to scores of excellent young shooters, and home as well to Nathan and Heidi Hendrix, shooting coaches and passionate competitors in their own right.

Through their tutelage with the .177 air rifle in the USA Shooting program, Moffett was soon ready to compete again, maybe even readier than she knew.

Talent is fed into the U.S. Olympic shooting team through a network of amateur competitions that extend to the state level and beyond. In December, part of Mississippi’s junior Olympic trials were held on campus at Ole Miss.

Though she’d been shooting the air rifle for only one year, Moffett went to try her hand and check out the competition, entering two disciplines: Air Rifle, which requires 40 shots fired from a standing position, and Three-Position Small Bore, which requires 20 shots each from the prone, standing and kneeling positions.

“She shot her personal best in Air Rifle that day,” Stephanie Moffett, Meredith’s mother, said, “but we didn’t think that was good enough.”

With other segments of the overall competition in the state yet to go, Meredith’s scores were taken under advisement by the committee but no results were posted that day. Several weeks later Meredith and her mom found out just how good her shooting had been.

“She placed first in the state and received a gold in Air Rifle, and earned a silver medal for Three-Position Small Bore,” Heidi Hendrix said.

The gold in Air Rifle means she’ll move on to the nationals at the USA Shooting National Junior Olympics, set for the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., April 15-17.

“I’ve always wanted to go to the Olympics,” Meredith said. “I know this is not the Olympics, but this is a good starting ground.”